A Fresh Start
Claire's been gone for four years. What's in store for her when she returns home? Quil/Claire
4. Past, Present, Future
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2536 Review this Chapter
Claire’s first thought upon waking was, Why am I on fire? She could feel an immense amount of heat coming from behind her. She tried to roll away from the source of the “fire,” but it seemed to have grown arms, that restrained her from moving even an inch. Without opening her eyes, she sleepily mumbled, “Bad fire.”
The “fire” made a groaning sound, which Claire found to be quite odd, since she was not aware the fire was capable of making such a noise. It shifted, and suddenly, the “fire” was…spooning Claire. Her eyes snapped open, and she realized that it was not a fire spooning her, but instead a very hot—in more way than one—werewolf. Claire blushed in embarrassment, but quickly got over it when she realized that she really needed to get away from Quil, and his overwhelming heat. “Quil,” she whispered.
“Quil,” she said in a normal voice.
Not even the tiniest of acknowledgements.
“Quil!” she yelled.
“Shhhh!” was the response that she finally received. He nuzzled his face into her shoulder and said something into it that was completely incomprehensible.
“Good, you’re awake,” she said, in her sunniest voice. “Now I need you to release me from your arms.”
He seemed to passionately disagree with this idea because he simply pulled her tighter to him.
She smacked his arms. “I’m serious, Quil. You’re too hot,” she told him, beginning to get annoyed.
He chuckled in a way that sent shivers down her spine. “I know I am.”
She kicked his shin, which she was disappointed to see did not have any effect on him. “Not that way, stupid. You’re suffocating me.”
“Oh,” he responded. “Sorry.” Finally, he rolled away from her, so that she could jump out of the bed.
“Hallelujah,” she muttered under her breath. For the first time since she had woken up, she looked at Quil. Now that she had gotten away from his heat, she could think clearly about, and rejoice, their situation. They were together, finally. He was hers. Claire could not control the smile that was spreading across her face.
Quil propped himself up on his elbow and smiled back at her. “What are you smiling about?” he asked.
“You,” she replied. “What are you smiling about?”
“Same thing as you are.” He paused. “Myself. My wonderful, amazing self.”
Claire glared at him for a moment, but then burst out laughing. She jumped onto the bed, ripped the pillow out from underneath his head, and starting hitting him with it. “You jerk.”
Quil took the pillow from her and flung it carelessly across the room. Then, he pulled her on top of him. “But I’m your jerk,” he retorted, hugging her tightly to him.
Claire found that she was beginning not to mind the heat so much. Maybe she just needed to get used to it. She nuzzled into his embrace and murmured, “I missed you so much.”
“Not nearly as much as I missed you.” Somehow, he managed to grip her tighter. They laid there in silence for a few minutes, until Claire realized that something was off. “Quil, what happened to my parents and sister?” she asked. “Shouldn’t my dad be barging in here with a shotgun any moment now?”
“It’s Monday, sweetheart,” he said, humor coloring his tone. “You know, the day when big people go to work? They checked on you a couple of hours ago while you were still sleeping. They didn’t see me, of course, because I hid in the closet. Your sister, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I’m pretty sure she didn’t come home at all last night.”
She took a moment to process all of that, then smiled. She and Quil were alone, probably for the whole day. “Don’t you have to go to work?”
He kissed her forehead and she could hear the smile in his voice when he spoke. “Nope. I took the next two weeks off.”
She could hardly contain the joy that she was feeling. Quil always seemed to know exactly what she wanted, even without her saying. It was almost as if he had some sort of extrasensory power for it. He was the one who had made her go to the International School for the Gifted in London in the first place, when she had come home for the third day in a row in eighth grade complaining about how her classmates made fun of her for being “nerdy.” She remembered it as the day that changed her life, the day that she had begun to be proud of her intelligence, instead of being ashamed of it. And it was all because of Quil…
A thirteen year old Claire ran off the bus, trying to hide her tears from her classmates. She had lost her very last friend at school that day. Mia Haroldson had been her very best friend since kindergarten and Claire had always thought that they were the type of friends who would stick by each other no matter what. Apparently, Mia did not see their friendship in the same light.
Today, Claire had, once again, received a hundred on her latest Geometry test. It was no surprise to her, since she had taught herself Geometry back in fourth grade. In fact, she probably should have been in a much higher-level math class, except that her middle school didn’t offer anything higher than what she was taking right then. Not that she minded; she would have died if she wasn’t in the same class as Mia. Some of the other girls were just so mean to her .
Claire had leaned over in her seat to whisper to Mia. “I got a hundred!”
Mia had almost smiled at her, until she looked over at Camille Long, the most popular girl in their grade. She was giving Mia a rather pointed look. Mia looked back over at Claire and glared. “Oh stop bragging, you know it all,” she snapped. “You think you’re so smart and pretty, don’t you? Well, you’re not, so just shut up about yourself, because I’m tired of hearing it.” She smiled at Camille, who nodded her approval.
Claire had stared at Mia, shocked beyond words. The bell rang and the class filed out. Camille linked arms with Mia, who looked over her shoulder at Claire, an apologetic look in her eyes.
“Now that you finally ditched that pathetic loser, you can sit with me at lunch,” Camille had said loudly to Mia, making sure that Claire heard her every word.
Since then, Claire had been trying to keep the tears in. Now that she was alone, she could finally have a good cry. She would be all alone when she got home, too, so no one would bother her about her obvious distress.
Claire had made it about halfway to her house, when a familiar blue sedan pulled up beside her and rolled down its window. Quil. She could not have been more embarrassed if she were walking down the street naked. “Need a lift, little lady?” he asked, donning a fake Southern accent.
“Okay,” she muttered, trying to keep her head down as she settled into his car, so that he would not notice her tears.
Unfortunately, for her, Quil had always been just a bit too perceptive when it came to her emotional state. “Are you crying?” he gasped. “What happened?”
Much to Quil’s distress, this set her off again. She told him about what had happened with Mia between sobs. “I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore,” she blubbered. “Why is it that I can solve any math problem and memorize whole books, but I can’t even figure out why my best friend would ditch me for that horrible girl?”
Instead of responding, Quil just pulled the car over and hugged her. She noticed that he was quite tense and that his hands were shaking. She knew that he must have been angry, because his hands only shook like that when he was. Also, she could have sworn that she heard him mutter, “Must resist the urge to throttle eighth grade girls,” under his breath. Her sobs subsided, and she asked, “Quil, are you okay?”
This seemed to calm him down and he released her. “Yeah, just peachy,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry that she did that to you, Claire Bear. You don’t deserve that.” He paused for a moment, deep in thought. “I don’t know for sure why she would do something like that to you, but I can tell you my theory, if you want me to.”
“Okay,” she sniffled, afraid of what he was about to say. Did Quil think that she was a loser, too?
“She and the other girls are jealous of you,” he told her. “You’re smart and beautiful, not to mention one of the nicest girls on the face of the planet.”
Claire burst out laughing. “Jealous of me, the school freak? I don’t think so, Quil. Nice try.” Quil sighed. “One day Claire, you’ll see how amazing you really are.”
“Not likely,” she scoffed. Then she groaned. “How am I supposed to show my face at school tomorrow? I wish I could just transfer to somewhere else.”
Quil grinned at her, an odd gleam in his eye. “I was going to surprise you with this for your birthday, but I suppose now is as good a time as any.” He snapped open the glove compartment and took out a thick manila envelope, which had been ripped open already. “A few months back, a school called the International School for the Gifted was on the news. It’s a school for really smart kids, like you. I decided to send in an application for you, figuring it was worth a shot. This,” he said, tapping the envelope, “came in the mail last week. It’s an acceptance letter. And a plane ticket to London.”
Claire stared at him, feeling an emotion she could not name welling up inside of her. “You did all that, for me?” Then her brain caught up with his words. “London?”
“Yes, I did all that for you, and yes, it’s in London,” he answered.
“My parents will never let me go to school in London.”
“They will,” he replied with a smile, “because I already asked them and they said yes. Now it’s just up to you.”
Claire frowned at him. “Do you really want me to go away that badly?”
He looked at her with a soft expression on his face. “You have no idea how much I’ll miss you, Claire, but I only want what’s best for you, and this is definitely it. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The corners of her lips began to turn upwards and she could feel the excitement brewing within her. “I’ve always wanted to go to Europe, you know.”
“Does that mean you’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it,” she confirmed, “but only on one condition: that you promise to write me.”
“Of course,” he agreed, “just as long as you promise to write me back.”
“My letters will be twice as long as yours and I’ll send twice as many,” she told him with a challenging smirk. Claire could not believe how perfect her horrible day had turned out. Quil was her personal savior. She could only hope to marry someone like him one day. She would have loved to be able to marry Quil, but he was way too old for her...
“…about us?” Quil asked, his voice returning Claire to the present.
“Sorry,” she apologized, with a sheepish grin. “What were you saying?”
“I was asking you if it was alright if we talked about us for a moment,” he told her, a twinge of annoyance in his voice. Quil could be so impatient sometimes, especially when there was something he wanted to talk about. Claire hoped that he wasn’t about to take back everything he had said to her last night.
She sat up, and he did the same, so that they were sitting across from each other Indian style. “What did you want to talk about?” She cringed at the anxiety in her voice.
He leaned over and ruffled her hair. “Calm down, it’s nothing bad. I just wanted to talk about the…terms of our relationship. I wanted to know if we’re, you know,” he struggled for the right words, “an item? We don’t have to be, if you’re not ready for that yet. We could just be friends, who kiss sometimes. Or we don’t even have to do that. We could…”
Claire cut him off with her lips. His tongue and her tongue danced together in a way that let her know that they were made for each other. Once she was done kissing him, she said, “You can be a real idiot sometimes, Quil. You know that? Of course, we’re an, as you so eloquently put it, item. Do you think that after yesterday, I would want to have it any other way? Of course not.”
Quil nodded. “Good. There was also something else that I wanted to talk to you about.” He blushed, embarrassed for reasons unknown to Claire. “I figure that we need to have this talk sooner or later, so we meet as well get it over with. I just want you to know that I don’t expect anything from you. What I mean is…I don’t expect sex from you. I’ve waited thirty-two years to have it, so don’t feel like there’s any rush.”
“Hold on,” Claire interrupted him, giggling. “ Let me get this straight. You’re a virgin?”
He frowned at her question. “Of course I am. I was barely sixteen when I imprinted on you. I’d only kissed a couple of girls before that. After it happened, I didn’t do anything with anyone. It felt…disloyal.”
His words made her feel all warm and gooey on the inside. She looked at him with a tender expression. “You’re too good for me, you know that?”
He rolled his eyes at her. “You’re crazy. Anyway, back on topic!” He gave her a faux-stern look. “I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t feel any pressure to lose your virginity to me any time soon. Are we clear on that?”
Claire paled, any of her previous humor and joy gone. She knew that they would have to have this discussion eventually, but she had been hoping it wouldn’t have to be so early on in their relationship. “No, I don’t think we’re clear on that,” she whispered hoarsely. “Quil, there’s something I need to tell you.”
He took hold of her hands. “Tell me,” he ordered gently.
Claire gulped and squeezed his hands. “I think you’re functioning under some sort of misconception.” She paused, took a deep breath, and finally dropped the bomb. “I’m not a virgin, Quil. I’m sorry.”
Abruptly, he pulled his hands away, his whole body shaking with rage. He quickly slid her window open and jumped out. Claire rushed to the window, only to see a pile of shredded clothes lying in the grass beside her house.
Crap, she thought to herself.
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